An Oregon State Police trooper has been “cleared” after video appeared to show him flashing an “OK” hand signal at a Black Lives Matter counter-protester.
The incident occurred during a BLM protest in Salem over the weekend, as footage of the interaction was streamed live on social media. At one point during the stream, the trooper is seen observing counter-protesters. He then walks up to a man wearing a “Black Bikes Matter” shirt, flashes the signal, and the counter-protester pats him on the back.
The video went viral on Saturday, and by Sunday, the State Police launched an investigation.
The “OK” hand gesture, which was originally used to indicate all is well, was classified as a symbol of hate by the Anti-Defamation League in 2019, for its association with white supremacy.
However, according to the Oregon State Police Department, the trooper did not flash the signal that “some could interpret as racist or sympathizing with racist ideology.” Instead, police said the trooper “was simply checking on the man’s status,” using the symbol to make sure the man was “OK.”
In a video released by police, titled, “OSP addressing false accusation,” bodycam footage showed the counter-protester getting knocked down by a protester, who has been identified as Christopher Davis, 50. (Davis has been charged with disorderly conduct and harassment). About 55 seconds later, the officer approaches the man, flashes the signal, and the counter-protester pats him on the back.
— Nat 🌻 (@ToshiiLynn) July 5, 2020
“Best available evidence indicates the trooper was simply checking on the man’s status and used the universal signal to signify this inquiry, which the man gestured he was- then patted this trooper and a second trooper on their shoulders in an apparent signal of appreciation. The man was the victim of a crime,” the police said.
“OSP condemns all racist behaviors and does not allow white supremacist behaviors by our officers and staff. The OSP Trooper identified in this video did not engage in any white supremacy behavior,” implicity or explicit,” the State Police said in a statement.
“We appreciate that the public would be concerned and rightfully outraged if an OSP trooper were to flash an offensive gesture. We would share in that outrage and concern. In this instance, we would ask the public await the complete information before condemning a trooper with an irreparable and harmful label.”